The Sophomore in the Play
The body in the cement sidewalk is mine, and he told several people he was going to do it, that he he’d been planning it since he took me to homecoming and I refused to kiss him on the doorstep of my father’s house. The sequence of him chasing me with a sonnet in the dark was a horror I concealed with white out and Zima and a steady rotation of Dispatch and The Doors. If only I’d been at the coffeeshop to answer the payphone when M____ called between dress rehearsals; if only I’d allowed him touch—some greater sympathy for his alienation, that solitude I’d convinced myself belonged to Lawrence’s disgraced Bertram Cates—there would have been no blood spatter on stage right, no trail of evidence leading to a carport in Encinitas, to the foundation that never had enough time to dry. If I’d been there to answer the payphone when M____ called, I’d have called 911, I’d have hidden in the bathroom while they confiscated the AR-15 in his locker and paraded him through campus in cuffs. I’d have gone home and contemplated the bottom of my father’s pool, convinced I was a soft weapon and it had all been my fault.
The Co-Ed in the Attic
The body in the attic is mine, and the boys won’t say whom the necktie belonged to, even though everyone had seen B____ tracking me through the party. At what point does loneliness become a weapon? Humiliation a trigger? If it ever comes out, if the swabs come back dirty, the boys will say it was a game, that B____ was a stray, wasn’t theirs, wasn’t even a student at the college, wasn’t more than a ghost trapped behind the bookshelf under the staircase when Los Angeles got too dry, too dirty, too lonely to sustain him.
The American in the River
The body in the Vltava is mine, and it was never supposed to float. The man with the mattress in his basement window, the one refilling my wine glass all night at U Sudu, was last seen getting on the metro in Anděl, heading towards Černý Most and its impenetrable palisade of paneláks. The PČR mistake me for an ice floe at first, but my face is no longer concealed by the mottled bedsheet, and the diamond earrings my grandfather gifted me when I was twelve sparkle below the lights of Národní Divadlo, directs them to my chrysalis frozen in the eddy beneath a winking Andromeda.
The Hostage on the Plane
One of the bodies in the Bally’s penthouse is mine, but it takes the investigators two days to get half of the story from N____ and only after she’s been released on $1,000 bail from Clark County Detention Center. No one knew the Australian’s real name, she told them. One minute I was shooting pool at Lucy’s, the next, I was two eight balls high on a flight to Vegas with not so much as a toothbrush for my stay. N____ doesn’t remember the Australian’s name or why he insisted on buying the tickets. His hands, she says. T____’s head, she says. My name, she says, over and over, like a bird in broken song.
The Young Assistant in the Headlines
The body in the cassette room is mine, and while E_______ has been planning to fuck me since the first day I brought him coffee on set, he never knew what he really wanted until he had me pinned against his front door. I should be at Stage 23 right now, watching rehearsal from video village, final draft of the 98th episode in one hand, two sharpened pencils for M___ and D____ in the other. If he hadn’t broken his foot, if I hadn’t brought him those Vicodin like he’d asked me to, if the showrunner hadn’t told me to drive him home so he could get his shit together…it was supposed to be a tour and then done: the tape room, the vinyl room, the cassette room, the room where he and Bob recorded Theme Time Radio Hour—
—I was supposed to be pliable. I was supposed to be willing.
The Mother in the Road
The body in the road is mine, and the driver of the car doesn’t know my name or where I live. He doesn’t remember me telling him my husband will divorce me and take the kids. He doesn’t remember what drinks he bought me, which pill he slipped me, or whether he paid the tab. He only remembers my devastation when Neil Young sang “Cowgirl in the Sand,” the soft halo of my black hair, how anger is a fault line under pressure, how it felt to shake the earth with his desire, to see the mountain of me collapse.
The Child in the House
The body in the house is mine, but there was never supposed to be a body, not in a housing development, not in a square of dirt that would soon become a bedroom, a place for sleep, for dreams, for escape. I was six when he taught me his special way of playing house. He was bigger than me but too young, somehow, for his man’s body. And while the weight of him has kept me breathless for decades, in my nightmares, he has no body at all, only nostrils—strange mushrooms against overcast sky—and footfalls in the gravel drive, too quiet to echo. Thirty years later, when I ask what I did wrong—I had to have done something wrong, or else why it had happened so many times?—Dr. M____ will point to the target above my head, the one given to me that afternoon in the dirt of the half-constructed bi-level. She will show me how to dismantle it. First, guilt. Then, shame. And then she will show me how to live.